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Fasten, fit closely, bind together.

Wednesday, March 30, 2005

Make It Happen 

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Our Idiot Kicker 

60 Minutes will broadcast a report Wednesday night that claims Panthers punter Todd Sauerbrun and center Jeff Mitchell and former offensive lineman Todd Steussie filled testosterone cream prescriptions written by Dr. James Shortt, who is currently under federal investigation. The three filled these prescriptions during the 2003 season when the Panthers played in the the Super Bowl.

In addition to the cream, which is banned by the NFL, Todd Sauerbrun -- one of the league's top punters -- also obtained syringes and the injectable steroid Stanozolol, which is also banned by the league.

Now I realize that one of the reasons Sauerbrun was one of the league’s premier punters is due to these steroids. Steroids build big biceps, and they can also build some tree-trunk-looking legs. But come on... a punter on steroids?!?!?!



As Peyton Manning would say, “We’re talking about our idiot kicker here.”

Relax with the ‘roids Todd.
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Tuesday, March 29, 2005

The To-Do Over the Do-Rag 

William Safire, the conservative pundit from the NY Times, chimes in with a bit of etymology in the Times Sunday Magazine. The section is titled On Language. In each weekly installment, Safire explores the origins of such sayings as- a bird in the hand is worth two in the bush, or don’t throw the baby out with the bathwater.



A few weeks back he tackled the do-rag.



The to-do about do can be seen in its use in slang nouns. Although to be in deep doo-doo (probably from the excremental euphemism ''doing one's duty'') has lost currency, the fashion world dominated by teenagers has embraced the do-rag.
I visited a high school in Virginia recently that had this sign on the door: ''Please remove bandannas, skullcaps and do-rags'' or any other clothing that violated the district's dress policy.

''For the uninitiated,'' writes Carrie Mason-Draffen in Newsday, ''do-rag is essentially a bandanna that African-American women or men like to don . . . eminently practical, eminently dress-down . . . but some young African-American men are masters at transforming the scarves, or some offshoots, into fashion statements.'' She notes that ''the symbol of World War II working women, Rosie the Riveter, was depicted in posters with her locks peeking out of a do-rag.''

Earliest use was in an April 1968 Times article from Saigon by Thomas Johnson quoting a marine recalling indigent blacks in San Francisco ''with slicked-down hair and 'do-rags.''' What's the metaphoric root? What does a do-rag do, other than upset school officials from France to Virginia? My speculation: a rag is a piece of cloth, often discarded or used for cleaning and dusting; garment-industry people often mock their business as the rag trade. The do comes from hairdo, with the do meaning ''style.'' Thus: a scrap of material worn atop the hairdo is a do-rag. If proved mistaken, I will wear one to the office for a week, accompanied by a paronomastic singer-lyricist who calls himself Rapunzel.



And this past Sunday, Safire probed even deeper into the roots of the do-rag phenomenon.

My recent definition of do-rag as ''a scrap of material worn atop a hairdo'' has been challenged. A dozen or so readers are certain it should be spelled dew-rag, derived from the headband worn to absorb the perspiration, similar to dew, on the brow of workers in the sun.

On the other hand, Anna Grimes Noser of Nashville holds that ''a do-rag is whatever is available to pull your hair out of your face so you can set about cleaning the house, garage, gutters or other messy tasks. To indirectly criticize and simultaneously empathize with someone, many Southerners will quip, 'Bless his heart.' Mr. Safire, bless your heart.''

Michael Parker of the Corcoran Library in Washington, writing ''as a black man growing up in the 50's and 60's,'' observes that ''a do-rag was usually worn by men who had their hair 'processed.' The do-rag kept the 'process' neat until it was time to step out. We usually made fun of men with do-rags. Today I keep my mouth shut!''
Other Lexicographic Irregulars lent support to my speculation about the hyphenated noun's origin. ''Originally, a do-rag protected one's conk (straightened hair) while one slept,'' noted Rebecca Maksel.

And at Washington's Gridiron Dinner a couple of weeks ago, as I stood amid a bunch of other moving shakers in white tie and tails, Colin Powell -- proud product, like me, of the Bronx -- agreed that do-rag did derive from ''doing'' one's hair. He even recalled that ''in the days before pantyhose,'' a variation of the do-rag was a stocking pulled down over the head. Ain't etymology grand?


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If the thought of William Safire calling his Boogie Down Bronx Brethren, Colin Powell, to ask him his thoughts about the origins of the do-rag doesn't bring a smile to your face, then The Billiken's Bluff is not the place for you.

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Those are Some Great Names! 

Sheik Harith al-Dari, a 64-year-old cleric and tribal leader who has become a leading spokesman for Iraq's Sunni Arabs, bases himself out of The Mother of All Battles Mosque.



The Mother of All Battles stands in western Baghdad and was commisioned by Saddam Hussein after the First Gulf War.
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Sunday, March 27, 2005

Thundering 

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B-AM, B-AM, B-AM, B-AM, B-AM, B-AM, B-AM, B-AM, B-AM, B-AM 

YING YANG TWINS

Wait (The Whisper Song)


This song is a travashamockery. Actually no, that makes this song sound preposterous in a funny way, when in fact it is preposterous in a disturbing, hide the women and children because Genghis Khan is pillaging the village kind of way. And yet, Wait (The Whisper Song) by the Ying Yang Twins is a hit. It’s #8 on the April 2nd listing of Billboard’s Top Singles.

The song is thoroughly immersed in the sex, sweat, scream, caffeine crunk, and testosterone of Lil' Jon’s Crunk Music. But while Lil' Jon yells about his skeet skeeting the Ying Yang Twins twist on the genre is to whisper sinisterly, like snakes, serpently, ssssssssssshhhhhhhhh.

Their song starts off simply enough with a propostion:

Hey how you doin lil mama? lemme whisper in your ear
Tell you sunthing that you might like to hear


Ok nothing Sodom and Gomorrah yet.

You got a sexy ass body and your ass look soft
Mind if i touch it? and see if its soft


Ok, now it's getting a little on the raunchy side. Nevermind that the Ying Yang Twins just rhymed soft with soft, a la Craig Mack's gem of a line: "I take my rap styles real serious... What you think this ain't that serious". But I digress.

From there The Ying Yang Twins start going really dirty dirty southwards.

So i dont mind asking for your head
You heard what i said, we need to make our way to the bed
And you can start usin' yo head
You like to f*^k, have yo legs open all in da butt.


Pretty nasty fare. Although the in da butt part calls to mind a classic line from Tim Meadows in The Lady's Man. Meadows is interviewing for a job and the man interviewing him looks at his application and asks, "What’s this listed under hobbies? Dabutt?". Meadows responds, "No that’s Da Butt and I also enjoy Tennis." Brilliant.

Finally, there is the chorus of Wait which, well I’m speechless and at a loss for descriptive adjectives.

Ay b**ch! wait til you see my d*ck
Wait you see my d*ck
Ay b*tch! wait til you see my d*ck
Imma beat dat p*ssy up

Like B-AM, B-AM, B-AM, B-AM, B-AM, B-AM, B-AM, B-AM, B-AM, B-AM, B-AM, B-AM, B-AM, B-AM, B-AM, B-AM

Beat da p*ssy up, Beat da p*ssy up, Beat da p*ssy up, Beat da p*ssy up, Beat da p*ssy up, Beat da p*ssy up, Beat da p*ssy
Up, Beat da p*ssy up



One of my favorite lines from Common goes:

"If revolution had a movie I'd be theme music."

Well if RAPE had a movie this song would be its theme music. Ladies, if there are any of you who read Billiken, I’d like to get some feedback on this. Let's say you are in Da Club. You are dancing having a good time with your girls. Maybe drinking a few Smirnoff Ices. All of a sudden one of the Ying Yang Twins comes up behind you starts dancing a little. Then he leans in and starts whispering, softly, Ay b*tch! wait til you see my d*ck Imma beat dat p*ssy up. I mean is that effective? Does that work?

This is not an anomaly or buried somewhere deep in an underground Atlanta crunk club. This song is in heavy rotation on Hot 97, Z100, probably on MTV as well. It’s #8 on the Billboard charts!!! Sure there is a radio edit of this, but how can you really edit this?

I think I may have to start agreeing with the FCC, the Moral Majority, the Christian Right, etc. America needs some family values. I wouldn't want my son or daughter listening to this. Maybe due to all the whispering, the censors simply can’t hear the not-so-sweet nothings coming out of the Ying Yang Twins. So in case they missed it here is a Public Service Announcement for the FCC. Stop worrying about Howard Stern’s mouth and Janet Jackson's nipple. Worry about this song.

The only thing that makes this song less offensive is when you look at these two goof balls. They look like straight up rodeo clowns.



I saw them on MTV cribs and apparently Ying and Yang still live together. Fraternal to the end. They have their dining room decorated with a nautical theme. Model ships, sails, and oars over the mantle. Nautical. Now that's gangsta.
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Friday, March 25, 2005

Closer 

I saw Closer and had many of the same problems with it that I with Richard Linklater's film, Tape. A lot of theater simply doesn't work when translated into a film. A play works well if the entire plot unfolds in a single room, but when this is the case in a movie it feels claustrophobic. Closer did not limit itself to a motel room, so it wasn’t quite as awful as Tape.

Anyway, the only reason for going to see this movie, or for me posting this right now is to see Natalie Portman.



She plays a stripper from New York looking for love in all the wrong places, a.k.a, London.
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Passionate About Good Friday 



The Crown of Thorns
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Babbling About Towers 

I've always been fascinated by skyscrapers, so much so, that when I studied in Prague I wrote my term paper for a Culture of the City course on why Europe had so few of them and what this meant.

An excerpt from my misplaced paper went something like:

"Can London truly be considered a global city, alongside the likes of New York and Tokyo, when it has no more than 2 buildings taller than 40 stories? I think not!!!"

Anyway that was a few years back now. I've mellowed on my militant stance in regards to skyscrapers, but the global village still seems intent on moving on up to that deluxe apartment in the sky.

Right here in NY we have the 1776-feet Freedom Tower, which may or may not be currently under construction.



The Sears Tower is still technically the tallest structure with its radio antennae. But apparently antennae don't really count for much.



The current record holder is Taipei 101 in Taiwan. The Petronas Towers in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia were the former world-record holders when they were completed in 1998. They are 88 stories tall, with spires spiraling up to 1483 feet.



But all of these are paltry uninspired Lilliputians when compared to the Burj Dubai currently under construction in that burgeoning global metropolis Dubai, U.A.E. It is expected to have 160 floors, with structures reaching as high as 900 meters, which when converted into feet is a helluva lot.

The Burj Dubai (Arabic for "Tower of Dubai") is set to be completed in 2008. EMAAR properties, who are developing the project, say that the Burj Dubai will become the tallest manmade structure of any kind in history. And I don’t know why, but I believe them.



The Burj will have residential apartments, offices, shopping, pools, spas, and a rocket ship landing port on the 125th floor. If you are interested in getting in on the ground floor (haha) of this Burj phenomenon, you can inquire about rental opportunities at there website.

The Burj Dubai looks pretty spectacular, but the best part of this story is not in the building, but in who almost became the builder. The Bin Laden Group was one of seven companies to bid for the construction of the skyscraper, but a consortium formed by Samsung, Besix and Arabtec won. The Saudi Bin Laden Group is the biggest developer in the kingdom, and was actually considered the favorite to win the bid back in May 2004. The Saudi Bin Laden Group was founded by Osama Bin Laden's father.
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Thursday, March 24, 2005

What Would Jesus Fine for Indecency? 

Since we finally settled that whole Iraq argument, let's turn out attention to the equally beleaguered domestic front, shall we?

As a card carrying Anti-Bushocrat (Note to chairman: can't we find a catchier name?) I certainly harbored fears of a theocratic government following Bush's win last November. Unlike too many in my party, I cared much less about Iraq, the permanency of tax cuts, and budget deficits than I did about abortion rights, stem cells, and the "theory" of evolution. Bush's clear stance on the first two of these issues made my decision an easy one. However, as much as I was expecting the daily complaints about broadcasting indecency from the likes of the Parents Television Counsel and other deceivingly innocuous sounding groups, the recent wave of Conservative "moral" dogma has grown large enough to overshadow Bush himself.

As Dowd points out in her column today, even the White House backed itself out of the Terry Schiavo debacle by acknowledging, begrudgingly, that there was little the administration could do after more than 7(!) years of court decisions that said her husband has the right to let her die. One would think that Delay and Frist would follow suit. Of course, they made the slightly less intuitive decision to inspire congress to subpoena her, and threatened to hold a congressional meeting in her hospital room. After several additional losses in the judicial system, Delay displayed even more remarkable good taste by placing his name alongside Schiavo's in a list of people being "attacked" by the left.

As has been reported, this grandstanding on the cross is so egregious that it has begun to show the cracks in the Republican party itself. (I can't really picture Bush even suggesting some of the tactics the majority party has undertaken.) However, those simpletons duped by their congressmen into getting themselves arrested while trying to being water to Schiavo are representative of a small, but ludicrously vocal minority of Americans that repeatedly fight to have the word evolution removed from their children's textbooks and now, have IMAX movies depicting the earth as more than 6,000 years old removed from their local museums. Such single minded folks need little motivation from their elected officials, given the current state of reactionary fear that has gripped them. It seems that within realms such as the FCC, they are even succeeding in railroading, as Frank Rich says, not just government, but also "culture, science, medicine and the rule of law."

What are the Anti-Bushocrats doing to combat this recent hysteria? Well, they're failing to dissent against Republicans as they pushed the Schiavo bill, cited as constitutionally-questionable, through in the middle of the night, on a weekend. They have Hillary Clinton say, in an effort to sound more mainstream, that abortion is a vile practice, that both parties should work against. In short, they're playing to the lowest common denominator, which in this case hates effete cartoon character, but can't stop buying a series of books in which everyone, literally, dies.

So I'll call you out Dotty. Explain your alignment with the party that is so closely tied to this "God fearing" mob. Explain how you, a more than learned individual, see those who would like to see creationism (we're in the 21st century, I remind you) taught to MY children as equal to, or greater than, evolution. How is it, than in a country dedicated to individual freedom, 280 million people may soon lose the right to view violent or sexual content in the privacy of their own home, if that Alaskan senator succeeds in placing cable and satellite TV under the wing of the FCC? And how is it that I am now legitimately afraid that Congress may try to enact a new law, simply because the Bible doesn't legitimize my legal behavior?

These are questions that keep me up at night in a cold Kafka-esque sweat, and I see it, those tongue-in-cheek news stories about mass emigration last November suddenly seem a lot less reactionary.
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Wednesday, March 23, 2005

Waiting for the Rest to Come 

From the Got's paper of choice:

BAGHDAD, Iraq, March 22 - Ordinary Iraqis rarely strike back at the insurgents who terrorize their country. But just before noon on Tuesday, a carpenter named Dhia saw a troop of masked gunmen with grenades coming toward his shop here and decided he had had enough.

As the gunmen emerged from their cars, Dhia and his young relatives shouldered their Kalashnikov rifles and opened fire, the police and witnesses said. In the fierce gun battle that followed, three of the insurgents were killed, and the rest fled just after the police arrived. Two of Dhia's nephews and a bystander were wounded, the police said.

"We attacked them before they attacked us," said Dhia, 35, his face still contorted with rage and excitement, as he stood barefoot outside his home a few hours after the battle, a 9-millimeter pistol in his hand. He would not give his last name.

"We killed three of those who call themselves the mujahedeen," he said. "I am waiting for the rest of them to come, and we will show them."


I belive it was Saint Nick himself, in his characteristic, Saintly sarcasm, who recently said, "Such an easily contented people, those Iraqis."

Well when the Saint's right, he's right. The Iraqi people, whether facing death to vote, protesting terrorism in the streets or shouldering Kalashinikov rifles against murdering insurgents, are anything BUT contented. Which is why, of course, they continue to surprise and inspire the world, defining bravery as they continue the war to remake their country.

Yep, even the carpenters.
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Speaking of Llamas... 

I saw Napoleon Dyanamite and it was pretty funny. My favorite scene was definitely Napoleon's run-in with the pet Llama.

Llamas are really instant comedy. Just add water and presto.

For instance-



[Inge Morath - New York 1957]

Ha.
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Tuesday, March 22, 2005

Got Napoleon? 



Got, I feel like you should put this up top on the page's sidebar. Just a suggestion.

Jeez!!
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Easter En Espanol 







Holy Thursday Processional - Mallorca, Spain

[Pictures courtesy of M&M]
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Friday, March 18, 2005

Bloodninja, anyone? 

Here's an amusing read for you while you're pretending to work or whatever:

http://www.distortedprism.com/text/bloodcyber.html

I think I threw it up a while back, but check it out if you haven't already. This guy is the shiznit. I haven't seen writing as genius as this in a long time...
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Wednesday, March 16, 2005

Just In Case This Wasn't in the New York Times 

I figured I would point out that

More Iraqis believe their country is headed in the right direction and fewer think it's going wrong than at any time since the U.S. invasion two years ago, according to a new poll.

and that, just FYI,

According to the poll, more than 80% of Iraqis voted Jan. 30 in the Shiite south and the Kurdish north. In Sunni areas, 44% voted.

You may now continute with your regularly scheduled pessisism and complaining.
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Time Out 

The March 14th issue of Time magazine featured an article about the abysmal graduation rates among student-athletes at universities with top-tier athletic programs. The article, titled "Getting Benched", was pretty standard fare, nothing ground-breaking. Apparently UConn has lower standards for it's basketball players than for it's regular students (so does Duke, UNC, Harvard, even NYU).

The article pointed the finger at a couple of programs, Kentucky and Texas, but focused mainly on UConn, probably because they were last year's NCAA Basketball champions and thus ripe for the picking. The article claimed that the UConn program has a particularly poor academic track-record for it's basketball players, the article states:

"Just 27% graduated the past few years".

Since this was a featured article, Time placed a picture next to the story in the table of contents. The pictured shows a UConn player, probably the best player from those past few years mentioned above. The caption reads:

"College athletes may be able to dunk, but in class they flunk."

(Clever stuff Time, your caption even rhymes... look at me I'm a poet... and I don't even know it!). The picture alongside the caption shows a UConn player doing just that... dunking.



This picture and the caption make sense at first glance. The player is in fact dunking, and he is wearing a UConn jersey. The only problem is that the picture shows Emeka Okafor!!! Who was an Academic All-American!!! Who graduated in 3 years with a degree in Finance!!! Who played basketball, was named National Player of the Year, and maintained a 3.8 G.P.A.!!! All while leaping tall buildings in a single bound!!! He dunked many a time, but not once did he flunk!!!

I know all this because Rico is a UConn groupie. We watched UConn win the NCAA tournament last spring and Rico was always quick to wax poetic about Okafor’s exploits both on the court and off.

But even the amateur blogger or casual sports fan would know that Emeka is not the man to feature in an article about academic inadequacy. Dick Vitale, Bill Raftery, and any and every announcer who covered March Madness last spring made sure to mention the little factoid that Emeka Okafor was National Player of the Year AND an Academic All-American. The perfect combination of performance on the court, and in the classroom. The prototypical student-athlete.



Here is a portion of Okafor's bio from Answers.com:

Okafor, the son of Nigerian immigrants, is known for not only being a good basketball player but also for achieving success in academics. His major at UConn was finance, and he graduated with honors after three years in May 2004 with a 3.8 GPA. One of his last courses at UConn was an honors-level finance course where students were allowed to make investment decisions for a small portion of UConn's endowment. Okafor was named the Academic All-American of the Year in 2004 for his work off the court.

I was tempted to write a letter to Time just to let them know that I know, that they have no clue what's going on and so on. But instead, I’m content to put this little post together.

Take that Time, you just got served in the Blogosphere.
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The Concrete Fist of Communism (Vietnam) 



Keep 'em up boys, stay strong, and keep hope alive because as Marx said, history is cyclical; your time will come again.
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Wolfy On Parade 

First, Times columnist David Brooks suggests in a March 8 piece that history will show Paul Wolfowitz to be a dynamic, successful leader. This morning, we wake up to Bush's nomination of Wolfowitz as head of the World Bank, arguably the most powerful economic organization on the planet. Not bad for a guy best known to his own citizens as a mousy individual with a habit of licking the grease off his comb.

I think it's fair to say that Paul Wolfowitz is having the best week ever.
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Sunday, March 13, 2005

Public Service Announcement Thai-Style 

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Friday, March 11, 2005

Public Service Announcement Cambodian-Style 

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The Cats Strike Back 



Madison, Wisc. (Billiken) - When hunter Mark Smith decided to put up a proposal before his fellow hunters in April at the Wisconsin Conservation Congress, he thought was doing a good deed. Given that the 48 year old firefigher from Wisconsin regularly welcomes wild game on his land, he had come to recognize roaming cats as an "strong>invasive species" on the property. So he did the logical thing that one does when finding a domesticated animal to be a nuisance. He petitioned the Wisconsin Conversation Congress to make them an "unprotected species" so that he could blow them all away with his shotgun.

"I get up in the morning and if there's new snow, there's cat tracks under my bird feeder ... I look at them as an invasive species, plain and simple," Smith explained.

If Mark Smith gets his way in April, Wisconsin's many firefighter/hunters will no longer have to deal with the travesty of cat tracks on their property - at least not without the right to fire at will. At the time of the proposal, they didn't expect to receive any return fire from the enemy. Said one hunter, "It's gonna be like shootin' cats in a barrel."

The proposal has sparked an understandable outcry from cat lovers, including "cat enthusiasts" Cheryl Balazs, Ted O'Donnell and Adam Bauknecht who are trying to organize opposition to Smith's proposal on their web site dontshootthecat.com. Even among some hunters, the idea of making cats an "unprotected species" remains controversial. For hunting enthusiast and camoflauge model Senator John Kerry, the proposal presented a clear difficulty, prompting some to claim he was taking both sides of the issue. "I actually voted for killing the cats before I voted against it," he protested, confusing Wisconsin residents who realized the vote wasn't until April.



The proposal also has its avid proponents. One backer is University of Wisconsin-Madison wildlife ecology professor Stanley Temple, who has spent years trapping cats and analyzing their stomach contents during a four-year study. Through the study he estimated that between 7.8 million and 219 million birds are killed by rural cats in Wisconsin each year, which is only slightly less than the number of cats killed by wildlife ecology professors in the state.

But if the WCC authorizes Operation Cat Destruction and everything goes to plan, all that would change in Wisconsin. "Instead of eating birds, these kitties are gonna be eating lead," explained Temple, to much guffawing and high-fiving from the Wisconsin firefighters and hunters he hangs out with at McGraw's Bar and Billiards on Tuesday nights, where many mounted feline heads are proudly displayed alongside a black and white photograph of the infamous "60 pound tabby" that Mark Smith's grandfather caught up north in the winter of '34.



What no one could have expected was that Operation Cat Destruction was about to go horribly, horribly wrong.

Just as the war on cats was heating up in Wisconsin, shots rang out across the bay in neighboring Bates Township, Michigan. Michigan State Police arrived on the scene to find that a man cooking in his kitchen was shot after one of his cats knocked his 9mm handgun off the kitchen counter and onto the floor, discharging the weapon. Though he survivied the attack, twenty-nine year old Joseph Stanton was shot in his lower torso and was transported to Iron County Community Hospital.

Although it was a lone incident, Michigan State Police were shocked to discover upon further investigation that the suspect, Mr. Fluffles, frequently used his owner's computer to connect to an underground of cat revolutionaries and militants determined to counter the strike being planned against them by hunters in the region. Mr Fluffles' relationship with groups such as Pussy Jihad and the Black Mini-Panthers stemmed, from, oddly enough, his connections with the anti-cat violence organization dontshootthecat.com. His attorney refused a statement, and calls to these organizations have not been returned.



Although Mr. Fluffles is in custody, Michigan State Police remain deeply concerned about the depth and capabilities of these militant cat organizations. A visit to their web site reveals that Mr. Fluffles may be merely one of legions of cats determined to fight back against what is conceived in the domestic cat populations as a direct threat on felines everywhere. One poster on the underground sight bitethehandthatfeedsyou.com, who uses the handle "Col. Whiskers," openly called for violence against humans whenever possible. "Invasive species? We'll show them invasive," he said on the site's message board. "I got a .45 and I'm getting real sick of chasing squirrels."



Asked about whether they were concerned over the outbreak of a revolution, Michigan residents downplayed the possibility that their beloved pets would wage an attack on them. Still, others were concerned about reports of neighborhood cats cruising down suburban streets in Impalas with tinted windows, driving "unnecessarily slow," and seemingly "staring folks down." Still others had received disturbing phone calls late at night, with unsettling purring on the other end.

But it was hunter Mark Smith who eventually received what has been perhaps the most direct threat yet. He awoke Thursday to find his Lacross, Winsconsin home spray-painted with the words, "Who's an unprotected species now bitch??"

He appeared uneasy about the message when questioned at his home. "Not quite sure what we started here," he said, greasing his hunting rifle. "But I damn well `know we're gonna finish it."
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Thursday, March 10, 2005

Let's Enjoy The Beauty of Australia 

This is my first post to the site. My name is Shogo, I am male, 22.

So I was perusing the web a while back, planning a vacation in Australia, when the following page was stumbled upon: http://www.abcintegra.com.au/one_vehicle.php?vid=43056

It's a real company, give it a read along the right-hand column. Props to the Web guy, yo.
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Progenitorivox 

Be advised it may induce agitation, palpitations, excessive salivation, constipation, male lactation, and rust-colored urination.

[Brought to you by the Consumer Union]
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Let’s Keep the Champagne Bottles Corked. 

Mark Twain is famous for saying that "the reports of my demise have been greatly exaggerated."

Well the reports that there is A Brave New Arab World in the Middle East that was born sometime in early February have also been greatly exaggerated. A quick glance at the news shows that the region is still plagued by many of the same problems that it faced this time a year ago.

Saying that things are far from settled in the Middle East seems like a fairly obvious statement. But over the past month The Independent , The NY Times, Newsweek, The Daily Show, and even The Billiken’s Bluff, were all asking the same question; Was Bush Right?

Last week, after the pro-Syrian Lebanese government stepped down (they have since been voted back into office) The NY Times' lead editorial was almost apologetic and questioned if in fact, Bush was some sort of visionary.

On Tuesday, David Brooks gave Paul Wolfowitz, who is very much in the Bush Inner Circle of Trust, a big pat on the back. Brooks talked about him in glowing terms, writing about him as if he was composing a Friendster testimonial for his buddy Paul. He all but dubbed him Wolfowitz the Wise.

Things were looking good in the Fertile Crescent.

But then there is this story. US troops killed an Italian intelligence officer and injured the journalist he was shielding, when their van failed to stop at a security checkpoint. We keep giving Europeans reasons to dislike us.

And then there is this story.

Yesterday’s discovery of two mass graves that contained 15 beheaded bodies of Iraqi children and women at two separate places in Iraq., with scores more bodies found bullet-riddled, some of which are believed to be of Iraqi soldiers kidnapped and executed by insurgents.

And finally this story.

A suicide bomber blew himself up at a Shiite mosque during a funeral Thursday, killing 47 people, an attack that came as Iraq's main Shiite party and a Kurdish bloc said they reached a deal that sets the stage for a new government to be formed.

And as I wrote earlier today, Lebanon doesn’t look as prime for democratic revival as it did a week ago. And I know all of these events can be looked at through the glass half-full perspective. Uncovering a mass grave filled with victims of the Iraqi insurgency can show that their truly is democratic progress underway in the region, and that terrorists will do everything in their power to stop it. The US and the Iraqi people must not lose their resolve. Glass Half-Full.

But naïve as I am, I wanted to believe that after these elections in Iraq, and the developments in Lebanon, that some tranquility would all of sudden fall over the region. Instead if anything things are status quo, or worse. America is still the demon from the west. There are daily suicide bombings in Iraq. And Hezbollah may end up running Lebanon, which will go over just beautifully in Israel.

As for the Bush Administration's vision for a pan-Middle Eastern democracy, let’s take it down a notch and give each other some high fives after a few months of peace in the Middle East.

As Jon Stewart says, it’s still a Mess-O-Potamia. Emphasis on the mess.
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Strange Bed Fellows 

The U.S. is ready to see Hezbollah take an official role in Lebanonese politics.

For years the US has classified Hezbollah, a radical Shiite party, as a terrorist organization. Up until a few weeks ago, the US was still campaigning in Europe to have France officially label Hezbollah as a terrorist organization. But on Tuesday, Hezbollah showed just how much support it has in Lebanon by staging a massive pro-Syrian, anti-American rally in Beirut, that drew hundreds of thousands of Shiite supporters.

The Bush administration is now going along with efforts by France and the United Nations to turn Hezbollah into a mainstream political party.

--------------------------------------------------------------------------------

What is also apparent from reading this NY Times article is that my suggestion on Tuesday, that the US should reconsider its aggressive insistence that Syria withdraw all of its troops immediately, turned out to be not so silly after all.

Tuesday I wrote:

Maybe America should try playing a less visible role in pressuring Syria to withdraw from Lebanon. Then the Lebanese people will be able to decide what alliance, if any, they want to have with Syria.

US involvement only gives fodder for groups like Hezbollah to distract their followers from the real debate that should be going on. Rather than exploring the merits of current Lebanese/Syrian relations, Hezbollah can shout rhetoric about the Zionists and the Americans.

gotim | 03.08.05 - 9:16 pm | #

N-Dot responded:

That sounds like a horrible idea.

N-Dot | 03.08.05 - 10:32 pm | #

And then today, the NY Times writes:

One question the United States must consider is whether keeping up pressure to get Syrian troops out in time for the elections could backfire by enhancing Hezbollah's appeal.

"Why don't they realize that once America makes a case for something, the Middle East will go in the opposite direction?" said an Arab diplomat, asking not to be identified as criticizing the administration. "Hezbollah is a terrorist organization, but now its hand is strengthened because of American opposition."
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Wednesday, March 09, 2005

To the Kennel Club, Post Haste!!! 

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The Wild Thing No Longer 

Cardinals left-handed pitcher Rick Ankiel is ending his career as a pitcher and will try and make the team as an outfielder. Ankiel is 25-years old and has been struggling with injuries and ball control issues for the past 5 years. He made his major league debut in 2000, at age 19, and was 11-7 with a 3.50 ERA with 194 strikeouts in 175 innings, real precocious stuff. He had an unbelievably wicked curve ball, and was a lefty which is always a plus.



But in the 2000 playoffs, he began losing his grip on the strike zone. His pitches wouldn’t even come close to the plate, sailing all the way to the backstop 25 feet behind the batter. In the postseason opener against Atlanta, he became the first major league pitcher since 1890 to throw five wild pitches in one inning. It was brutal to watch (unless of course you enjoy watching people suffer). He returned the next season with his confidence shattered. He went 1-2 with a 7.13 ERA in six starts for the Cardinals in 2001, walking 25 in 24 innings, then was sent to the minors. He sat out 2002 with a sprained left elbow and missed most of the 2003 and 2004 seasons after reconstructive elbow surgery. He didn't return until last Sept. 7 and made five late-season starts, going 1-0 with a 5.40 ERA in 10 innings. Now he is done with pitching entirely.

Most pitchers aren’t adept at hitting, but Ankiel is, so apparently he has a fighting shot (as I would say) to make the club as an everyday outfielder. Ankiel is a career .207 hitter in the major leagues, going 18-for-87 with two homers, a double, a triple and nine RBI. He played some at designated hitter for the Cardinals' rookie league team in Johnson City, Tenn., where he hit 10 homers in 2001, so he has some power.

I’ve followed Ankiel since his rookie season and really feel for the guy. I’d cringe when I'd see him miss the strike zone by 15 feet.

Billiken wishes him the best of luck in the outfield.
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Seedy Concerns 

WABC Eyewitness news reports that teenagers on Long Island have found a new way to get high using a common gardening product. They are turning to flower seeds, Morning Glory seeds to be exact. They act as hallucinogenics when ingested in massive amounts. The effects are said to be an LSD-like experience lasting about 6 hours, but with less hallucinogenic effects. Adults were tipped off when teens starting buying large quantities of seeds from local gardening stores. Local hardware store owners are no longer selling the seeds to students unless they have I.D.



WABC Eyewitness News' Lauren DeFranco reports live from the scene:

An East Hampton High School student was hospitalized after ingesting a large amount of Morning Glory seeds. Students we spoke with say it's unfortunate because he is artistic and smart but he just made a bad decision.

Kyle White, Student: "I just think it's a mistake he did in his life that he's probably going to regret. Pretty dangerous. I've never really heard about them until that, though."


Award-winning journalism Lauren. Now Kyle, everyone at East Hampton High School, and every teenager in the surrounding Tri-State area knows that these Morning Glory Seeds can get you high.

I love it.
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A Brave New World 

My internet researching just became a whole lot easier, or be more precise, at least a 100 times easier to (or however much faster a cable modem is than a 56K dial-up modem). I’ve been maintaining Billiken’s Bluff via a dial-up modem for the better part of the past 7 months. I’m not sure what this says about me (maybe I should be embarrassed and keep this information private), but I think it should count for something. I’ve found it’s a lot like powering a television by pedaling for wattage on a stationary bike. I've had to work for this webpage, I've had to learn a lot of patience, and I've had to waste a whole lot of time.

After the Eagles beat the Vikings in the Divisional Round of the NFL Playoffs, I spent 3 hours scouring nearly every sports and news source in America trying to find a satisfactory photo of wide-receiver Freddie Mitchell wearing his red bowtie, suspenders, and Indiana Jones-style fedora during the post-game interview where he "thanked [his] hands for being so great".

I found nothing, but I would have found nothing a hell of a lot sooner with this cable modem.
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Fresh Meadows - Dry Cleaning 

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Tuesday, March 08, 2005

Kosher Kibitzing! 

Motorola has developed a cellphone for Orthodox Jews. Israeli company MIRS Communication is now offering certified kosher phones, approved by rabbinical authorities to be used by those in Orthodox Jewish communities. The phones are Motorola handsets that have had all but the most basic services trimmed away, tossing out internet access, SMS, and any sort of extra applications, to help minimize the potential for “corrupting influences”.

MIRS expects the phone to add up to 100,000 users to its 300,000-strong subscriber base, charging extra-low prices for those calling within the network and relatively high tariffs to those calling outside.

The company and the rabbis hope that the skewed tariff structure will encourage ultra-Orthodox Jews to use only the MIRS handsets, while discouraging members of the haredi community from calling those without the “kosher” phones.

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Caught With Our Pants Down... 

May I start off by apologizing for my prolonged absense; it seems the Big Easy doesn't always live up to its nickname.

However, a story has come along that has brought me out of my intellectual, liberal hibernation. Am I the only one for which this minor, forgettable ridiculously massive pro-Syrian, anti-American protest comes as a bit of a shock? Coming amidst a flurry of anti-Damascus rhetoric from all corners of the globe, including even our erstwhile buddy Putin, longtime Syrian ally, it seems the only group that hasn't jumped on the bandwagon is the Lebanase majority.

I argue not against the demand for Syria to pull out its military and security forces, and the best of luck to the recent protestors, hot as they are, but maybe before we start advertising slogans about the steamrolling effect of the democratic vote in Iraq, we should take a second to realize that we are discussing nations that have histories as different from each other as ours is from, say, Pakistan. While Syria is the cause of the week, with as much buzz as The O.C. had in its hayday, seems it takes more than a few press conferences from W. and the simultaneous covers of Time and Newsweek to convince those on the literal front lines amassing in Beirut.

The ME is hardly as simple a grocery list. Let's not count our democracies before they hatch.

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If They're Asking the Question .... 



Shouldn't you?
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Monday, March 07, 2005

Scrambling for Body Armor 

50 Cent has his bullet proof vest.



But why are many US troops in Iraq still lacking body armor?



The NY Times explores...
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Cashing in on the Con-Artist 

In an email exchange that calls to mind my epic brawl with Aaron’s Bible Megasite over The Billiken Bluff’s eminent domain (name), Rich Siegel chronicles his correspondence with a Nigerian con-man in his recently-published non-fictional work of fiction, "Tuesday’s with Mantu".



Billiken has received dozens of these money-laundering spam/scam emails from Nigeria. I look forward to checking this book out. You can read more about it at Siegel’s website- Tuesday's With Mantu. Here is an excerpt:

"You don’t have a long lost uncle who died in a car accident on Sagbama Road in the jungles of Nigeria.

You never purchased the winning ticket in a Sub-Saharan international lottery, Africa’s version of Powerball.

And there is no fabulously rich Prince Mbuto of the Wahaki tribe willing to exchange his enormous wealth for an opportunity to study marine biology at the prestigious University of Tallahassee.

These are just some of the scams being perpetrated by the Nigerian 419’ers. A group of clever con artists who have perfected the notorious Advanced Fee Scam to the tune of half a billion dollars.

Last year, I received one of these absurd e-mails from Mr. Ibrahim Mantu. He promised me more than $10 million dollars from a long lost Nigerian monetary fund hidden by a previous military regime. All I had to do was assist the transfer of the funds to the United States.

I gave it some thought and chose to take Mantu up on his fabulous offer. If someone wants to give me $10 million dollars, I reasoned, the least I could do was hear him out.

I had no idea the correspondence would continue for the next seven weeks. Or that I had four daughters. And a wife, Maude, with a bad case of Verticulitis of the Ovum. I had no idea I’d be quoting the literary works of Brian Boitano. Or bowling against the Modesto Nipple Twisters. I had no idea I’d be forging passports, booking flights to Togo or writing my own obituary. I had no idea I would be re-incarnated as Ukrainian emigrant Boris Beecha Kockoff or the curmudgeonly Holden McGroyne.

But it’s all true.

And it’s all chronicled. In a book, I had no idea I was about to write."
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Mickelson Came Agonisingly Close... 

Usually I aim for a more subtle brand of humor here on Billiken. But when the sports division of the BBC News throws up some accidental porn like this, I can't help myself:


Mickelson came agonisingly close to forcing a play-off at the 18th.

[Courtesy of my London Correspondent Em]
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Sunday, March 06, 2005

The Candy Shop 

Hot 97.1 FM, and its current artist of choice 50 Cent, have been making a lot of headlines the past few weeks. First there was Miss Jones and the Morning Show embarrassing themselves and Hot 97.1 by inexplicably making fun of the Tsunami victims. Then there is Hot 97.1's DJ, Kay Slay, The Drama King, who likes to stir things up between hip hop artists, provoking them to either; battle one another by rhyming on his show, or sometimes, by having their entourages fire off a couple of rounds in the lobby at one another. This past Friday there was a rally at Union Square calling Hot 97.1 to task for its indiscretions.

Despite all this, I still had Hot 97.1 playing in my car on Thursday Night. And good thing I did, because otherwwise I would have missed this:

Hot 97.1 DJ, Funkmaster Flex, puts a caller on the air just before he gets into The Top Eight At Eight Countdown. The caller, a girl, sounds very young and Funk Flex asks:

"Sweetheart, how old are you?"

"Eleven."

"Aww, well, it’s almost your bedtime isn’t it?"

"Yes."

"Well, is there any song you want to hear before bedtime?"

"Yea, Candy Shop by 50 Cent.”



Candy Shop. An appropriate request from an 11-year old girl. I mean little girls love candy. Sour Patch Kids, Skittles, Gummy Worms, and of course Lollypops. Here are a few lyrics from this 50 Cent track off his latest album titled, The Massacre:

"I'll take you to the candy shop
I'll let you lick the lollypop
Go 'head girl, don't you stop
Keep going 'til you hit the spot


Got the magic stick, I'm the love doctor
Have your friends teasin you 'bout how sprung I gotcha
Wanna show me how you work it baby, no problem
Get on top then get to bouncing round like a low rider
I'm a seasons vet when it come to this shit
After you break up a sweat you can play with the stick
I'm tryin to explain baby the best way I can
I melt in your mouth girl, not in your hands"


To be fair, this may not be yet Another Sign That the Apocalypse is Upon Us. It may just be funny, ironic, unfortunate, or in poor taste. Maybe this isn’t the final indictment of Hot 97.1 and its version of Hip Hop culture. But come on..



Whoever is running Funkmaster Flex's show, or, whoever is working the phone lines... Either screen the calls, or run the show with a 10 second lag, but never let an 11-year old girl request any song by 50 Cent. Ever.
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Chimps Gone Wild 

A couple's plans for a birthday party for their former pet chimpanzee turned tragic when two other chimps at an animal sanctuary escaped from their cage and attacked. The man was critically injured with massive wounds to his face, body and limbs, and the attacking animals were shot dead.

St. James and LaDonna Davis were at the Animal Haven Ranch in Caliente, California, to celebrate the birthday of Moe, a 39-year-old chimpanzee who was taken from their suburban Los Angeles home in 1999 after biting off part of a woman's finger.

The couple had brought Moe a cake and were standing outside his cage when Buddy and Ollie, two of four chimpanzees in the adjoining cage, attacked St. James Davis, Martarano said. Officials have not determined how the chimps got out of their enclosure, he said.



The son-in-law of the sanctuary's owner killed the attacking animals, Martarano said.

St. James Davis had severe facial injuries and would require extensive surgery in an attempt to reattach his nose, Dr. Maureen Martin of Kern Medical Center told KGET-TV of Bakersfield. His testicles and a foot also were severed, Kern County Sheriff's Cmdr. Hal Chealander told The Bakersfield Californian.

Davis was transported to Loma Linda University Medical Center, where he was undergoing surgery late Thursday, Martarano said.

Buddy, a 16-year-old male chimp, initiated the attack and after he was shot, Ollie, a 13-year-old male, grabbed the gravely injured man and dragged him down the road, authorities said.

[Via WUSATV9]

But lest we forget, not all monkeys are savages.



This long-tailed monkey I met in Thailand displayed superb manners, and acted like a complete gentleman.
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Saturday, March 05, 2005

Lincoln Tunnel, Manhattan Bound 

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Friday, March 04, 2005

Straight Chillin' 

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The Takeover 

Two companies, Bain Capital Partners, a private equity firm, and Game Plan, a consulting firm that provides financial advice to pro sports teams, made an offer to buy the entire NHL for $3 billion, stadiums, skates, zambonis, and all.

30 teams for $3 billion. It’s a creative idea and bold offer, and just about the only thing related to the NHL that has caught my attention in the past few years. At first glance $3 billion looks like a large amount of money, but it only works out to $100 million per team. The Minnesota Vikings, a single NFL franchise were just purchased for $625 million. This goes to show what dire straits the National Hockey League is in. The league is said to have lost $497 million in over the past two seasons.

The NHL would then be run as a single entity, with each team receiving equal revenue, and having an equal amount of money to sign players. As my uncle would say, sounds communistic to me. Actually, it’s quite similar to the way the MLS (Major League Soccer) is run. This should set off a couple of alarms. Soccer doesn’t have much of a following in the country, and the MLS is hardly considered a successful professional sports league. And secondly, the MLS was conceived in this single-entity-corporation-format from its inception. The NHL would be trying to retrofit their league and their over-priced stars to this model. Sounds like a mess.

This entire scenario is a long shot anyway because many franchises, particularly those in the larger markets like Boston and New York who are not in the red, financially, have no desire to sell.

Bottom line though (because this is all about the bottom line isn’t it?) no one cares about hockey.
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Wednesday, March 02, 2005

A New Arab World? 

On the topic of my disagreement with the Got yesterday, I would point out that at least one Lebanese dissident did have this to say (quote via David Brooks in the NYT:

“It’s strange for me to say it, but this process of change has started because of the American invasion of Iraq. I was cynical about Iraq. But when I saw the Iraqi people voting three weeks ago, eight million of them, it was the start of a new Arab world.” - Lebanese dissident Walid Jumblatt

1.

2.

Starting to see a pattern here?

High fives all around to the participants of these multi-colored revolutions. We are praying for their success in the long-term - at least, most of us are. Others, like certain prominent Democrats, openly hope for American failure in bringing democracy to the Middle East. Mindblowing. I don't know, as historic progress once deemed impossible by our liberal elite naysayers continues to unfold in the region, one can perhaps forgive the bitter Anti-Bushocrats for certain childish statements made in interviews with John Stewart. I guess.

By the way, in case there are some confused Anti-Bushocrats out there: V does not stand for peace in the above photographs. It stands for victory.
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What Would the FCC Have to Say About This? 

On Monday British Television's Channel 4 debuted a reality show called The Guantanamo Guidebook which recreates torture techniques used by interrogators at Gitmo. A spokesman for the show says they only used some of the milder forms of torture techniques on the shows 7 participants, 4 of whom are white and three of whom are Muslim.

The techniques were based on information from declassified U.S. documents. They were carried out by former U.S. military interrogators in a redesigned warehouse in East London.
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Tuesday, March 01, 2005

Aggressive Critiquing 

Aggressive Critiquing. I’m patenting this term. Alert the authorities. Aggressive critiquing of media, in all its forms, is prevalent. This term came to me this past weekend while I watched Friday Night Lights with a friend. My friend wasn’t really enjoying the movie and kept yelling at the television:

-"That tackle looked so unrealistic!!! It looked like that linebacker was fired out of a fuckin' cannon or something."

-"Boobie Miles relies too heavily on natural talent. He won’t put in extra time at the weight room. That’s definitely going to come back and haunt him later in the film. Mark my words- he is headed for a career ending injury."

-"The running back's over-zealous father has a sinister look in his eye. Yea you see that look? That will definitely come into play at some point."

-"How old is that player on Dallas Carter? Isn't he supposed to be in high school? The dude looks like he's about 45 years old or something."

And so on... I sat quietly through this standard sports movie. Yes, all of the above are true. But no reason to get so worked about it. Relax, brother. Of course, a football film will have unrealistic tackles. Of course, in any sports movie there will be the father who failed to live up to his athletic potential and replays the games vicariously through his son. Of course, they will use adult actors to play teenagers.

Films, TV sitcoms, reality shows, crossfire debates are filled with stock characters and scenarios. All very familiar. I know this, but whenever I am watching TV show, a political program, or a film; I find this compulsion to add my two cents.

And that’s all blogs are in actuality; someone like yours truly shouting their two cents of commentary over the competition of a thousand comparable blogs. The facts being argued are taken for granted. How aggressively and cleverly someone yells their critique of the facts is what has become central.

Gone are the days of mild, soft-spoken sarcasm circa Mystery Science Theater 3000.



Now we have Hannity & Colmes. The Daily Show. VH1's Best Week Ever. ESPN's Around the Horn. Blogs like Atrios, or The Billiken’s Bluff (tried to slip that in there). Haloscan. Screaming. Interupting. Streaming commentary. Endlessly.

So last night I watched 24 with my friends Mike and The Senator.



As we watched Jack Bauer save the State of our Union from terrorists, Mike and The Senator set in with the usual: Is this really realistic? I mean wouldn’t the gun be in his left hand? I mean he writes with his left hand right? Right Gotim?

I said fine, if you want to shout out allegedly insightful comments over the show, then I’ll keep score. Turn this into our own little reality show of our own.
So here’s my idea for a pilot show. A kind of Director’s Cut of 24 (only without the Director, Brilliant!!) where some amateurs like you or me sit around the couch and critique the plausibility, and entertainment value of 24 as it’s playing. It'll be great. Talking over the action about talking points. Someone keeps score, noting the most astute comments based on their foresightedness, wit, and timing. It would function much like ESPN’s roundtable sports commentary show Around the Horn. The host adds and subtracts points based on the sports pundit’s insights, or lack thereof. So I performed a test run of this potential pilot during last night’s episode of 24. I played scorekeeper and let my two friends go at it.

-Mike correctly guessed that CTU director Erin Driscoll’s schizophrenic daughter would kill herself. (Good call +1 point for Mike.)

-The Senator correctly pointed out that Paul Raines, son-in-law of the Secretary of Defense, and head of Galaxy Financial was not in fact part of a terrorist cell, rather his character’s function was to serve as a cautionary tale of the pitfalls of corporate irresponsibility. Paul had so many shell corporations registered in his name that he had no idea that the terrorists were working out of a building that had his name on the lease. (Jack Bauer ended up using using electro-shock torture to make Paul pay for his corporate negligence). (Insightful +2 points for the Senator.)

-Mike commented that Marianne functioned much like Amarosa did in The Apprentice. A thorn in everyone’s side, and an all-around bitch. An astute observation but he lost points for timeliness, since Marianne had been murked last episode. (-1 point for Mike).

-The Senator says the actor who plays the President in 24 is the same guy who played the Al Bundy role in Unhappily Ever After.



He adds that it would be a lot more entertaining if the stuffed toy rabbit Mr. Floppy that he used to consult in his basement made an appearance aboard Air Force One. Or it would be a lot hotter if Nikki Cox made an appearance as the president’s daughter. (+2 point for The Senator because that it would and that it would).

-Mike questioned whether Dina Araz actually spoke with that faux-Turkish accent in real life (+/- 0 points), but then commented that her nose job reminded him an awful lot of Michael Jackson's nose. (Verily +1 point for Mike).

-The Senator commented that the terrorist mastermind Marwan (played by Arnold Vosloo) also starred as The Mummy.



This was correct and I was about to give him a +1, but he followed it up with... Marwan sure has some strong cheek bones, real chiseled features. (While technically a true observation, it was completely uncalled for. – 4 points for The Senator.)

Final Score: Mike 1, The Senator 0.
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